You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I pass through a doorway with a beaded door curtain.  The beads rattle softly, their sound mixing in a familiar way with music playing over a sound system at the other end of the room.

“Is this the way out from this endless scene?
Or just an entrance to another dream?”

The familiarity intensifies.  It’s a record store, with wooden bins containing the records sorted by genre and artist.  Above the main bins in each row runs a ledge, along which new releases or hot titles are set so that their jackets are on full display.

“And the light… (light… light… light… light…)”

At the checkout counter, beside the sound system, above a sign that reads “NOW PLAYING,” is the jacket for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis.

“…dies down… (down… down… down… down…)”

Now I notice that the jackets displayed along the “new release” ledges are slowly changing.  Each one fades from one jacket image to another.  Watching one of them, I see that the fade happens about every twenty seconds, but they are not synchronized, so fades are happening constantly in different places.

461 Ocean Boulevard (Clapton)
Brain Salad Surgery (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
Harvest (Neil Young)
Naturally (3 Dog Night)
The Hissing of Summer Lawns (Joni Mitchell)
Abby Road (The Beatles)
Metal Machine Music (Lou Reed)
Easter (Patti Smith)
Live At Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash)

I can’t keep up with all of the them, but it is clear that they are all albums that I know, mostly ones that I have actually owned.

Upon This Rock (Larry Norman)
Degüello (ZZ Top)
With Footnotes (The 2nd Chapter of Acts)
We’re Only In It For The Money (Mothers of Invention)
Moving (Peter, Paul & Mary)
Houses Of The Holy (Led Zeppelin)

I turn around, noticing for the first time that the drone/clerk did not accompany me through the beaded curtain.  I can still see the toy department through the doorway, but the drone is nowhere to be seen.  Turning again, I see that there is a long-haired, bearded man (vaguely hippy-ish) at the checkout counter.  He is wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt and a disinterested expression.  He is apparently reading something and paying no attention to me.

I reach up and carefully take one of the jackets from the ledge.  As soon as I pick it up, it goes totally blank.  It is now an empty album jacket with absolutely nothing printed on it.  Its color is somewhere between manila and a medium brown.  I check inside.  No album, no printing, no nothin’.

The other album jackets, still on the ledges, are still fading from one jacket image to another.

Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys)
Caress of Steel (Rush)
Jagged Little Pill (Alanis Morissette)
Tales From Topographic Oceans (Yes)

I carefully return the jacket I’m holding to its place.  When I let go of it, as I expect, it begins fading from one image to another like the rest.  I walk a bit farther, and pick up another one.  Same result; it goes blank.

This time, I carry the blank jacket to the checkout counter.

The guy at the counter has no name tag.  He looks at me over the top of his square wire-rimmed glasses.  “Help you, man?”  How late-sixties.

“Are you a drone or what?”

His disinterested expression does not change, but he shakes his head a bit.  “Doesn’t matter, man.”

I hold up the blank jacket.  “I can’t actually purchase any albums here, can I?”

“I bet purchasing is not your gig.”

“I can’t actually have one in any sense, right?”

“Affirmative.  Sucks, doesn’t it?”

I look back and forth between the blank jacket and the…  guy…  I guess ‘guy’ will do.  He has gone back to reading.  What he is reading looks like a copy of Rolling Stone, in the old newspaper-like format.

I look around the store again, then at the blank jacket, then at the guy.  He is obviously content to read until I say something else.

“So, the fact that I cannot have any of them.  Is that all?”

When his eyes come back up to meet mine, he looks puzzled.  “Not enough?”

“Is there anything else you have to tell me?”

“Nope.”

I sigh.  “So it just had to be driven home in relation to the whole music thing.”  I set the empty jacket down on the counter, and am not at all surprised when it fades to Ghost In The Machine (Police).  “Why are you even here, then?  It seems pointless.”

“I can really grok that, man!”  Almost under his breath, still reading.

I turn and begin to walk toward the back of the store, and the door with the beaded curtain.

The guy suddenly speaks again.  “Hey, man, you should prolly go out the front door.”  When I turn to face him again, he jerks a thumb over his shoulder.  “There’s some chick outside waiting for you.  She looks religious or somethin’.  I think maybe she’s a nun.  And there’s nobody in the back anymore.”

I head for the front door, noticing on the way that the jacket I left on the counter is now Let It Bleed (Stones).  “Thanks.”

“Peace, man.”

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